By Mona Blaber, Rio Grande Chapter communications director
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small on Dec. 17 hailed final passage of legislation to designate White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico.
The provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which passed the Senate by a vote of 86 to 8 and was slated to be signed into law.
“For the first time since 1930, New Mexico will be home to our newest national park. This prestigious recognition of one of our state’s most remarkable natural wonders is an enormous victory for nearby communities and for all New Mexicans,” said Heinrich. “White Sands National Park will put southern New Mexico squarely on the map as a must-see destination for park-seeking travelers and will be a major boon to the whole region’s economy.”
Heinrich and Torres Small introduced the bill in March.
“I am proud that America’s newest national park will hail from my district. National parks preserve our country’s greatest treasures and serve as the engines of the local economies that surround them. White Sands National Park will solidify southern New Mexico’s role as a major tourist attraction for visitors nationwide,” said Torres Small.
White Sands National Monument was established in 1933.
For the last two decades, White Sands has seen more visitors than any other National Park Service site in New Mexico — an average of more than 500,000 each year.
In 2018, well over 600,000 visitors to the monument spent $32.2 million in the local economy, with over 98 percent of that coming from non-local visitors. Becoming a national park would immediately bring new attention and prominent inclusion in global and domestic travel materials, attracting more visitors and allowing for even better resource protection, interpretation, and visitor experiences. A 2018 study found that redesignation could increase visitation by 21 percent and result in an additional $7.5 million being spent in the local economy each year.
Featured image from Trey Ratcliff at http://www.StuckInCustoms.com